Polar Biology

, Volume 40, Issue 11, pp 2335–2342 | Cite as

Bacterial communities associated with the Southern Ocean vent gastropod, Gigantopelta chessoia: indication of horizontal symbiont transfer

  • Jane L. Heywood
  • Chong Chen
  • David A. Pearce
  • Katrin Linse
Original Paper


Recently discovered hydrothermal vents of the East Scotia Ridge (ESR) in the Southern Ocean host unique faunal communities that depend on microbial chemosynthetic primary production. These highly abundant invertebrates gain energy from either grazing on free-living microbes or via hosting symbiotic chemoautotrophic microorganisms. The main objective of this study was to characterise microbes associated with a newly discovered species of hydrothermal vent gastropod and therefore increase knowledge of ecosystem functioning in this largely unknown Antarctic hydrothermal vent system. We investigated the phylogenetic composition of bacteria associated with the gills and oesophageal gland of the ESR peltospirid gastropod, Gigantopelta chessoia by molecular cloning and terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP). 16S rRNA gene clone libraries revealed host tissue-specific combinations of bacteria. The oesophageal gland contained one Gammaproteobacteria OTU whereas a more diverse community of Gamma, Epsilon and Deltaproteobacteria was isolated from the gills. T-RFLP analysis revealed that juvenile bacterial communities were more closely related to adult gill-associated bacterial communities than oesophageal gland bacteria. Oesophageal gland Gammaproteobacteria exhibited a higher sequence similarity with sulphur-oxidising bacteria isolated from cold seep sediments and with thioautotrophic endosymbionts than with bacteria found in the surrounding water column, suggesting that these endosymbionts were not acquired directly from the water column. Juvenile G. chessoia were located within the mantle cavity of adults and we speculate that Gammaproteobacterial endosymbionts in the oesophageal gland could be transmitted horizontally from adults to juveniles via the gills due to the close contact of juveniles with adults’ gills.


Symbiont Hydrothermal vent Gastropod Antarctic Chemosynthesis Microbial diversity 



The authors would like to thank the principal scientist of JC80 Prof. P. Tyler, the Master and crew of the RRS James Cook as well as the team of technicians of the ROV Isis. The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded the study through the ChEsSO—Chemosynthetically driven ecosystems south of the Polar Front: biogeography and ecology consortium grant (grant number NE/D01249x/1).

Supplementary material

300_2017_2148_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (15 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 15 kb) Online Resource 1 Taxonomic classification of 16S rRNA gene sequences from gill and oesophageal gland-associated bacterial clone libraries as determined by RDP Classifier (Wang et al. 2007). Classifications with a confidence estimate of above 80% were used


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane L. Heywood
    • 1
    • 3
  • Chong Chen
    • 2
  • David A. Pearce
    • 1
    • 4
  • Katrin Linse
    • 1
  1. 1.British Antarctic SurveyCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Department of Subsurface Geobiological Analysis and ResearchJapan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and TechnologyYokosukaJapan
  3. 3.Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation AuthorityEssexUK
  4. 4.Northumbria UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK

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